Gymbox CEO, Marc Diaper, calls on government to give financial support to city centre gyms due to home-working guidelines
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Gymbox CEO, Marc Diaper, calls on government to give financial support to city centre gyms due to home-working guidelines

The government's working from home guidelines are threatening the financial future of city centre health clubs
It is feared that "Plan B" will have an adverse impact on what is traditionally the fitness sector’s busiest and most lucrative time of the year
Clubs located in town and city centres will be particularly badly affected, as they rely on commuters for business
Speaking to HCM, Gymbox CEO Marc Diaper said footfall was already "down by 10 per cent"
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The UK government's working from home guidelines are threatening the financial future of city centre health clubs and gyms, according to some operators.

Under the government's Plan B, people should now work from home "if they can" – with guidance being reviewed on 5 January, although this is not mandatory.

The timing means new year trading, which gives a boost to the sector, may be impacted.

Speaking to HCM, Marc Diaper, CEO of Gymbox – which runs 11 London studios – said the sector has already seen a drop in footfall and is in need of "urgent financial help" to counter the damage caused by the work from home advisory.

"The latest government guidance will see footfall reduced within the City," Diaper said.

"This has already had an impact on usage, with some businesses and offices that had returned sending their workers back to full-time home working.

"Since reopening in mid-April, we’ve experienced month-on-month improvements in the number of people using our gyms – we had hit 70 per cent of pre-pandemic usage across the group.

"However, since the government's announcement last week, footfall has dropped by 10 per cent – and we’re expecting it to drop even more, as businesses digest the information.

"It's not just London, of course – many businesses that rely on footfall in other cities around the country will suffer.

"While I appreciate the pandemic is difficult for the government to navigate and it wants to slow the spread of the virus, the recommendation to work from home has to come with additional financial packages of support, or I can see even more gym closures with the loss of jobs across the sector."

Diaper added that operators with strong ties to corporate clients and members will also be severely affected.

"While residential clubs in London were returning to pre-COVID-19 numbers much quicker, the city clubs were already being hugely impacted by corporate clients who have either never returned to the office, or those that have only returned a couple of days a week," Diaper said.

"Over the past 19 months, while some had gradually returned, many of our corporate clients have continually delayed the return to the office, as they feared further restrictions or lockdowns may occur."

Diaper also detailed the type of financial help he would like to see the sector receive.

"While I appreciate moving forward businesses will need to look at their property location strategies and adapt to office workers' potential new patterns of working, this doesn’t solve the issue for thousands of businesses right now. The government has created a problem with its new guidance and there needs to be a financial support package put in place.

"This could include a review of VAT – much like the hospitality sector received – an extension of business rates relief and additional grants.

"Though we have agreed on rent concessions with landlords, many businesses haven’t and this needs to be resolved with the moratorium coming to an end in the New Year.

"We’re approaching a crucial time for our sector. We were closed for the whole of Q1 this year and these restrictions will mean a very challenging start to 2022.

"We’ve all worked hard and spent millions on safety and cleanliness protocols and we’ve proved we’re safe with less than 1 case per 100,000 users.

"We’re essential for many members – for both their physical and mental health – and those that are city-based have just had their businesses majorly affected.

"The government has effectively taken business away with no solution for support and this needs addressing urgently."

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The UK government's working from home guidelines are threatening the financial future of city centre health clubs and gyms, according to some operators.
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